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Jimmy Hayes was a uniquely BC icon

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Boston College vs University of Wisconsin, 2010 NCAA National Championship Set Number: X84013 TK1 R3 F95

The 2011 Beanpot final featured players from Arizona, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Florida, and four Canadian provinces, all playing as hard as the next for local bragging rights, in a game that became an instant classic between Boston College and Northeastern.

But the game also featured two players born and raised in Boston itself - BC’s brothers Jimmy and Kevin Hayes.

The Beanpot is impossible to think about or talk about without veering into nostalgia: the endless retellings of the story of the Blizzard of ‘78; fans’ stories of waiting for the T with others from their hometown, heading to the Garden to root on local stars who made it to the next level; grainy highlight reels of historic triumphs.

This is and always will be part of the charm of the event, even as the four participating schools and as college hockey itself have transformed in recent decades.

Because of this history, it felt extra fitting and special when one of those two Boston kids - BC’s Jimmy Hayes - knocked in the game winner in overtime to down Northeastern, 7-6, in one of the best Beanpot finals in recent memory:

Watching this from the stands, I couldn’t help but feel extra satisfied to see Hayes put in the winner. Another inevitable part of the Beanpot is the friendly “not from Boston” barbs from BU or Northeastern - yet it was one of the only players from Boston on the ice who walked it off, and he did it for the Eagles.

Hayes was a local star from multiple angles - a Dorchester kid, a Bruin, part of a big Massachusetts hockey family - but he also had a uniquely BC story, and played an integral role in a golden age of Boston College hockey.

While BC has grown into a national and international brand, the history of the school - and especially its hockey program - is deeply intertwined with the city it was born in.

Jimmy Hayes was in so many ways a throwback to these roots - a local kid who starred at BC, inspiring his brother and two cousins to follow along.

Between Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes, and Ryan and Casey Fitzgerald, the family was part of the beating heart of Boston College hockey for a decade. If you attended away games during this era you knew that the Hayeses and the Fitzgeralds and their friends were always there in numbers.

Jimmy Hayes’s story ties together two different golden ages for BC fans.

Yes, he had the nostalgic and romantic appeal of the local kid starring at BC. But he was also very much a vital part of powerhouse, nationally ranked BC teams that cemented the program’s reputation as one of the historic dynasties in college hockey.

Under Jerry York, BC’s aspirations moved beyond just competing for Beanpots and toward competing for national hardware, producing NHL stars and Olympians, and attracting great talent from all over the world, not just Greater Boston.

York’s best teams - with Jimmy Hayes’s 2010 and 2011 Eagles certainly being on any list of those best teams - combined the best of both worlds, with the team topping the national rankings while also cleaning up at the Beanpot and featuring star players from New England.

Hayes was a key piece of these teams, scoring 35 points as part of BC’s national championship winning team in 2010. This included a memorable two goal outburst in just 23 seconds in the third period against Yale in the NCAA regional final, capped off by Hayes’s iconic “John Wall” celebration. Hayes then added three points during BC’s Frozen Four romp over Miami and Wisconsin.

Hayes’s recent retelling of “the John Wall” on his podcast is truly hilarious - if you’ve ever met “Big Kevin” Hayes, Jimmy and Kevin’s dad, it will come as no surprise to you what his reaction was to his son’s celebration:

In 2011 Hayes was even better, scoring 21 goals, including five game winners. In addition to the game-winner against Northeastern in the Beanpot final, he scored the game-tying goal against BU in the semifinal the week prior, and helped set up Tommy Cross’s OT winner to send BC into the championship game. The 2011 team went 31-8-1, including a 14-1-1 mark at home.

Hayes’s contributions to great BC teams already made him a program legend, but his time with the Bruins only added to his unique local legacy - part of a beloved list of players who moved from BC to the local pro teams. Even though he fought through struggles during his tenure with the Bruins, for those of us rooting hard for him there were still great memories - an easy player to root for not just because of his local roots, but also due to his big personality that made him a favorite of fellow players:

My personal standout memory from Hayes’s Bruins career was scoring a shootout game winner after a ten round marathon against Tampa:

It wasn’t just his on-ice accomplishments that made his story a special BC story, but the way he was clearly held in such high regard by so many former teammates and coaches, developing his reputation as an off-ice leader, a gregarious presence, and a committed friend and teammate.

Hayes and his teammates of his era stayed close even in the years after graduating BC, as they moved on to pro careers in and out of hockey, and to starting families and raising kids. Those BC teams were always so close, and remain close, as is reflected in the memories shared by teammates on social media since the passing:

It’s possible that one day we’ll see another kid who grew up along the T score an OT, Beanpot-winning goal for BC, even though those players are becoming increasingly rare. It’s possible we’ll also see another great dynasty that racks up trophies like BC did during the time of the Hayes brothers.

But to get to see both at the same time was a unique experience for the program, the fans, and the university. Jimmy Hayes carved out a special place in BC history, and a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten on the Heights.